over time our community on the forums has grown rapidly. The built-in vBulletin search isn't very optimized for communities over 100,000 and the Google Search that we originally replaced the vBulletin search wasn't very accurate. Therefor we had a huge missing gap in forum functionality. You may have started to notice new features popping up around the forum like the post voting wehre you can vote up/down certain posts. We have been trying to increase the functionality of vBulletin to suit our communities' needs.

Mike Estes (Sencha Support Engineer) and I have been working on a search service to replace vBulletin's built-in search and the Google search. Our aim was to make this new service accurate and fast. Over the past 3 months we have spent time to make something that solved all our goals and to make the interface simple to use.

Today, we are opening the Sencha Search to our Premium Users (support subscribers) with wide-spread release to come soon. We want to hear what you love, what you hate (constructive criticism), what you'd like to change to make this new search functionality fit exactly what you (the community) would want, after all, we are building this for you as it has been frustrating to use the search that we currently have.

Here is some of the features we have:

  • Search (surprised?)
  • Smart queries (explained below)
  • Forum selection (cookie persistable)
  • Help popup
  • Settings

Some example queries are like:

grid cell
+grid -cell
grid AND cell
Some smart queries are like:

grid cell from:2012-01-01 to:2012-07-23
grid title:cell
Notice that there is no space before or after the colons ':'. The title query isn't currently working, we are looking into this to see if it's a boost issue or a filter issue. The reason behind smart queries is to be able to search quickly without opening up any settings.

The forum selection will appear by hitting the options link. By default when you set the options, it will persist via a cookie. I am looking into finding a clever way to add this to the smart query. For example if you have '#ext4' in the smart query, I'm wanting it to target the Ext JS 4 forums but this would search all the forums within the Ext JS 4 forum category.

The help popup via clicking on the help link currently will show some sample queries. As time goes on we can add more things into it to aid how to use this search functionality.

Settings for the search are here (there is a link on the left hand side also). There are currently only 3 settings that will change the behavior and interactions. Most useful one people may find is there is a setting to remove the forum selection persisting off if you don't want the selection to always persist.

So, if you go to the forum index you will see the Sencha Search instead of the Google Search field at the top. If you do not see the Sencha Search then it hasn't been rolled out to your usergroup yet but be patient, it will be coming. There is no buffer between searches currently like the vBulletin search does have.

Some future plans... depending on the feedback we will be adding/editing functionality. By default, when you search it will make the body and show the results as a popup. I would like this to be a setting that you can use that or have it always load a new page with the results within the body (not a popup). As mentioned above, I would like to have forum selection as a smart query but will look into adding more smart queries. As also mentioned above, I want to incorporate all your ideas that you will likely have.

I want to stress that we built this for you (the community). We have been using this service for a few months now internally and it has been a great tool for us for accuracy and speed. If you don't like something, drop us a note and we will look into changing, adding or removing it. If you love it, let us know so that we can learn exactly what is working so we can ensure quality through out this service/integration.

After a couple weeks of rolling this out to everyone, we will be disabling the built-in vBulletin search as we do have bots that do searches for possible DOS attacks.